It’s January- and in the world of Aussie homeschoolers, January means planning. In fact, some of us started planning last year. Some of us may continuously plan in some way… or is that just me?
Now I’m completely shocked by this, but apparently not everyone loves planning! For those of you who find it overwhelming, or for those of you who are planning for the first time (oh my gosh, I am so excited for you!), I thought I would share the way I like to do it.
Before I start, remember this is just one way to plan. Take what you need, leave the rest. It’s your homeschool so do it your way. But I do hope this helps xx
This is how I plan our year…
- Research- theme of year, blocks included, outcomes, personal goals
- Fill out my calendar- holidays, festivals, special occasions, co-op days, family day care days
- Decide on my blocks- main and middle lesson
- Schedule blocks into my calendar
- Plan the Charlotte Mason ‘feast’ of extras and add to calendar
- Resource hunt
- Order Supplies
- Flesh out the blocks
- Plan Circle Time
- Organise our ‘Not Back To School Day‘
Now to explain what each of those points mean.
Bear with me- it’s a bit of a long one 😉
Our holistic homeschool uses Steiner/Waldorf methodology as the foundation we build upon. Having this philosophy to guide us means I know each year what themes our lessons will centre around, as well as what academic outcomes we are hoping to achieve. We are heading into grade three this year which is typically a year of transformation. The world of early childhood is being left behind and a new ‘I’ is forming. Steiner Education addresses this change by bringing stories of authority and creation to the child, as well as the practical tools a person needs to live on this Earth- building, farming, making, measuring. There is a big emphasis on doing in the third grade which gifts our children with the confidence they need to thrive in their growing world.
To prepare for this I refer to Steiner’s lectures, various teacher resources and other blogs. I have another post coming next month for you outlining many of the specific teacher resources I use, so stay tuned for that. One of my most important resources I use is the Australian Steiner Curriculum Framework (ASCF). This is the ACARA approved guideline that Australian Steiner schools use and is an invaluable tool. It outlines the themes for the year, suggested activities and the outcomes students aim to achieve. If you haven’t looked at their website yet, I highly recommend you do.
I also browse through box curricula to see what they are doing and borrow a few more ideas. I’ve purchased curricula previously but now prefer the DIY route. They are still a handy resource to refer to though, and a great source of stories. Another must read on my list is the freely available East African Teacher Training Manuals.
I make a note of the themes, suggested blocks and the outcomes in my notebook (I’m definitely a pen and paper type of girl) and add to this personal goals based on my child’s individual needs. I also include more family-oriented goals like, ‘spend more time hiking’. It helps to look back over the previous year and make a note of what worked and what didn’t. This is all helpful information when planning the nitty gritty later on.
Once all of my goal planning and general research is taken care of, I stop thinking of schoolwork and start thinking dates. Out comes the calendar. We work to the Queensland school terms, simply because that gives us holidays to spend with family and friends who don’t homeschool. Before I go any further, I mark these holidays on my calendar along with birthdays, festivals we want to observe, co-op days and FDC days. This leaves me with four 10-week terms, with weeks of 3, 4 or 5 days. Because we have short weeks I know that some of the less academic activities (handwork, art, read-alouds) will need to be included in our evenings and weekends. This ability to juggle around hours to suit us is a big perk of homeschooling.
Next up I plan our block rotation. I like to start term 1 with a one week form drawing block so that gets marked straight onto the calendar. That leaves me with three 3-week blocks for the remainder of term 1. The following 3 terms I tend to break into two 3-week blocks and one 4-week block with a couple of exceptions.
You could virtually take the topics list from the ASCF and use that as your list of main lesson blocks with very little change. But that would be too easy 😉 I like to wriggle mine around a little to break things up and to add in extra topics I want to cover. Because of when my HEU reporting is due, I actually start new grade levels from term 2, not term 1. With that in mind, these are my proposed 2017 main lesson blocks:
Term 1- form drawing (1wks), fables (language arts review- 3wks), Buddhist stories (maths review- 3wks), Celtic story (summary writing review- 3wks)
Term 2- maths 4 processes (2wks) & time (2wks), gardening block (3wks), Indigenous mythology (3wks)
Term 3- temperature and weather (2wks), farming block (6wks), Ancient farmers (2 wks)
Term 4- Hebrew mythology of Authority (3wks), animal homes (3wks), measurement (1wk), building (3wks)
Third grade work will be completed in Term 1 of 2018 with blocks on form drawing, money and trade, textiles and Aboriginal stories.
I also plan in middle lessons. These allow for review, provide continuity of learning between main lesson blocks, give balance to the work done in main lesson blocks, and allow me time to bring in stories that I haven’t been able to fit elsewhere. We will cover creation stories from Hebrew and Maori culture in particular in middle lessons. I will use some blocks of middle lessons to practice Charlotte Mason style narration, copywork and dictation.
Main lesson and middle lesson blocks are now plugged into the calendar, making sure I balance the blocks across the year, as well as balancing middle and main lessons. As an example, a maths main block might be balanced out with a literature middle lesson, or a very practical block with a creation middle lesson. I also add in set days for painting lessons, drawing lessons, artist and composer study (another borrow from Charlotte Mason), form drawing once a week throughout the year and our weekly poetry picnics.
It helps to remember here that life happens. Make sure you don’t jam your calendar so full that there is no wriggle room. Children get sick. Mamas get sick. Random playdates come up and perfect beach days shouldn’t be missed. So pencil in your plans but give yourself some breathing room
Now for the great resource hunt. I scour the library and the net, and hang out in Steiner/Waldorf facebook groups to see what other mamas are using. I’m looking for stories and fun hands on activities. Pinterest is my friend here and I develop a love/hate relationship with Book Depository. A few of my favourite sites to pull stories from include:
Make a list of resources for each block. Note down if the stories are available in your library or if you will need to order in. Check with friends to see if you can borrow things. Keep lists of EVERYTHING.
The fun part is next. Ordering supplies! Mostly this is stationary; beeswax crayons, lyra pencils, main lesson books, project paper books, watercolour paper, watercolours, craft supplies for handcraft projects. I also order any of those books I discovered on the resource hunt that I haven’t managed to source from my library or buy/sell/swap groups. I try to order one or two new teacher reference books as well as the resources for individual blocks. Learning and growing as a home educator is incredibly important. Think of it as modelling an ongoing education to your children.
Personally, I love this part but it’s easy to get carried away. Don’t! There is no such thing as a perfect plan. Your child’s education isn’t ruined if you can’t afford that $90 book of fables. A free one chosen carefully to suit your child is infinitely better. Use your library where you can.
Wow, this is getting long! I’ll wrap things up for now because each of these last 3 points deserves a post all of its own. Planning a Main Lesson Block already does 😉